Friday, January 31, 2014

Kate's Monet Masterpiece

One of my darling daughters turned 9 this month!! I cannot believe how fast time has some senses. I remember the wonderful day she was born like it just happened. At the same time I can't hardly remember life without her! Her creative, generous, compassionate and peacemaking soul greatly blesses this family. We love you, dear Kate!

Of course, birthdays bring cake. Actually my kids plan their birthday cakes year round...drawing ideas and sketching out elaborate {and nearly impossible} elements of spy labs and underwater coral reefs. I don't stop them since I know it's part of the process...and ALL of the fun. But, eventually, we have to cement the final design. I'm not sure if I get much more cake making...than seeing my children's plans go from pencil scribbles on paper to an edible work of art.

Kate finally settled on an "artist" cake...because she is, in every way, arty! She threw around various ideas on how to execute this broad subject. At first I was going to copy a painting that she had made a while back, but when it came right down to it she really wanted Monet. No contesting here...

We made the painting first and then worked the rest of the cake around that. Kate knew that she wanted a teal cake and the gold on the frame just popped. We decided that we needed to add coordinating gold throughout the rest of the elements. Paint brushes were a natural place for gold...but the idea {which, I must admit, was my husband's contribution} to paint gold strokes down from the top edge of the cake was genius! It ties the cake together and gives it an overall elegant, aristocratic feel. 

Starting at the top, we made a wooden palate covered with the colors we used for the actual painting. I made the paintbrushes all one piece, with white gum paste, and then once it was dry I painted those with powder colors. The paintbrushes look a little too real, four-year-old kept picking them up to use on his own creation he was making next to me. I cringed every time...trying to delicately unwrap his fingers from around the brush. I can't believe it never broke. And, yes, I did move them, but little boys move faster!

The Monet piece itself was painted on a canvas of dried gum paste. I used powdered colores mixed with a tiny drop of lemon extract until the "paint" was thick and opaque. I am not taking any credit for this work of art...I am not trying to make a forgery here. {Smile} We were inspired by Monet, and wanted to express that spirit here. The frame is made from bits and pieces of extruded gum paste, molds, and flat strips. It looked like nothing before we covered the whole thing in an antique gold finish. Kate let out a sign of relief, "Okay, now it looks like a frame!" We were going for elaborate-antique...good enough!

The last little detail came last minute. I had thought to hang the picture on the cake but it just didn't seem right. I wanted to bring a whimsical element to the cake that still showcased the painting but brought it to life a little bit. There are a few elements in the painting that we tossed around {the Japanese bridge, trees, grasses} but settled on the iconic and beautiful waterlilies. We added a touch of glamour to them painting a touch of gold here and there. The painting then looked quite "in its element" sitting on the lily pad. The end result was worth the extra work.

Kate, dear, I hope your birthday was as beautiful and wonderful as you! Thanks for working by my side to create this masterpiece. I love you, darling!

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Midnight in Paris

This three-tiered display cake was created for an event for a school fund-raiser, themed "Midnight in Paris". With blue and purple hues, couture fashion, and floral inspirations I set out to create to capture Paris in a cake. I wanted the elements to feel slightly old-world while remaining classically clean. 

The iconic Eiffel Tower was tricky for me to conceptualize and execute. I'm much too fluid and organic for rigid architecture, although I do appreciate it in its own place. I decided on a loose rendition, with painted bronze and silvers.

I had so many flowers to choose from, so I just picked a bouquet of tulips, hydrangeas, roses, lavender, and poppies. I wanted the main selection to be arranged under the Eiffel Tower, all sitting on a tier designed as a striped Parisian hat box.

My client specified a Cartier pocket watch, and I added the chain that wrapped around the base of the tier. I wanted the details and the old-world sliver in the watch to be mirrored in the "Paris" sign underneath. The hand painted silver details on the sign give that classic French feel. I then tied in the floral element on each tier to bring in some continuity among so many different elements.

And just because I love my sugar pocket watch, I'll post a close-up here. I examined picture after picture of antique watches of all kinds to develop my design for this one. So, no it is not really a Cartier, but don't you think it could be? 

I'm pretty sure I could indulge myself in intricate, and quite impractical, details all day long. But, alas, cakes are hardly everything there is in life. For that I am thankful. Life would be tedious and then quickly consumed it this was what it was about.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Matthew 6:19-21

To God be the glory,

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Friday, December 6, 2013

The Cat in the Hat for Norah!

Well, friends, a year has past since I put my cake shop on hold! I can't believe how time flies when you are having fun...or trying to survive! What a great year. A heart-wrenching and trying year, but a great one. And now that we are on the other side of just trying to navigate the chaos of adoption, our family is back to enjoying little things like game nights and family outings...and I have energy to make cakes!

I don't take for granted this gift of relative calm in our lives. God is merciful and gracious as He works out His purposes in us. He is our Creator and knows how we work inside and out. He knows what we need, even down our expression of creativity. It is such a blessing for me to have an artistic outlet and I absolutely LOVE working with all of you!!

I love working with little Norah, who is turning 4! I have had the privilege of working on three of her birthday cakes over the years. I love her excitement as she recognizes familiar elements and takes in all the intricate details. This year she chose "The Cat in the Hat" fun!

I basically went through the book and pulled out as many elements as I could make. I wanted to start with the most iconic pieces...although I wish I would have had time to make the pink polka-dotted dress, too. Of course, the actual hat had to be in there somewhere, and the most logical place was the cake itself. I know, I didn't think outside of the box on that one, but it's a thread of predictability in the rest of the crazy Seuss world.

I thought about doing "Thing 1" and "Thing 2" but they are so over done. I went with something I hadn't seen before.

I decided to try stacking the elements like in the book, even though I am super concerned about the 45 min drive it will have to endure! 

And of course, I had to have the kite on there, with the string winding around the side of the cake. I chose to use the "Things" number circle for Norah's name. I think it ties in well.

So, Happy 4th Birthday, Norah! I am so thankful that I can be involved in a small way in celebrating the life of such a sweet girl. It's a blessing in so many ways! 

Hope you love your cake!!

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sweet Cakes...All Five of Them!

For all my readers who haven't heard, we just adopted a sweet three-year-old that we named Joshua. The transition has been long and challenging...okay we are only three months in! But, still, our nights are sleepless and days are filled with doctors and paperwork. Joshua, along with our other four, Ethan, Kate, Annie and Caleb, is such a joy. Yes, that makes five. I never imagined I'd  be a mom to five amazing children! We are honored that God has lead us to Joshua. We are humbled that God is daily teaching us through this precious child.

In case you get the idea that with caring for five children, homeschooling, maintaining the house and running an extremely time-consuming cake business (whew!) I am some super-time-managing-wonder-woman...I'm not. 

That is why I need to take a break from cakes.

At least for this year.

Even though my dear husband would support and encourage me no matter what I decide, I really don't have the capacity to take on 30-40 hour cake projects. Yikes! It is hard to believe that I spend that much time on these creations, but yes, it is pretty consuming.

I am not sure what the future holds for Flour & Fondant. Feel free to keep checking in from time to time. At least for the rest of the year I will not be accepting orders. Thank you all for your support and business. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with each of you. I count it a privilege to have been able work on cakes for your families and friends.

Thanks and I hope to see you all next year!


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Saturday, October 27, 2012

An Icing Smile for Trace!

I don't often share much about my clients...privacy, and all that. But, one time I do feel it is important is when my little cake-eaters are referred to me through an organization called Icing Smiles. I want to first do a shout out for the people who run this amazing program and second I'd like to highlight Trace and his 4th birthday cake!

Icing Smiles is a remarkable group, who's founder acknowledges that this is her calling from God. In fact, she comments, "We are not a faith-based organization. But without my faith, we would not be an organization." I respect this position since I, too, feel compelled by God to use my passions for His Glory. Icing Smiles is a nonprofit organization that provides custom birthday cakes for families impacted by the critical illness of their child. Birthday cakes are often luxuries that a family battling illness do not have. Bakers around the United States partner with Icing Smiles to create custom cakes for these children or their siblings. This gives them temporary escape from the day to day worries and helps build memories with smiles, bringing a glimpse of normalcy to the lives of these families.

I highly recommend that you check out the Icing Smiles website, and if you are a baker in the United States, I ask you to consider volunteering with Icing Smiles. You could contribute to making wonderful birthday memories a reality for these families. infinity and beyond!

Buzz. Such a recognizable character. The enormous chin. The crazy eyebrows. The ball-and-socket arms. Then there are all the badges and buttons. I wouldn't have chosen to do a gigantic Buzz but there was a very special reason...actually a very special boy.

Trace. And he was turning four. What a miracle! To date he has had several open heart surgeries and a stroke. He is scheduled for surgery again next year. It is hard for me to imagine a childhood full of doctors and hospitals, but this boy was all smiles when I finally met him.

When Trace's mom contacted me and said Buzz Lightyear was his favorite, I really had no choice but to start craving this cake. The arms were made out of rice crispies and the rest was carved cake. That chin did prove to be a challenge!

"Space Rangers" badge on the left arm.

The "Laser Button" was a last minute decision, thankfully. Trace's mom asked him as we were walking in to get the cake..."Trace, are you excited to eat Buzz's Laser Button?"  Whew! I'm so, so, SO glad I put it on.

Isn't he adorable? Trace, that is! On his way to the car he showered me with kisses and hugs. I even got his signature "puppy dog kiss,' which, as you can imagine, was a bit too wet for me. But, I think that meant he was happy. (Insert smiley face for really did make my day!) Here he is pictured with Buzz during his party. After a long drive Buzz started to lean...I think the sheer exhaustion from posing with that grin on the long car ride home. It makes my face hurt just thinking about it!

Happiest 4th Birthday to you, Trace. I pray that you were able to build great memories with your family, and that God would supply you all with strength and perseverance for the months and years ahead.

Those are TWO Icing Smiles!!

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

More Important Than Cakes???

Far too often bloggers write in a way that expertly balances their specialty with just enough reality to hook their readers. That is the nature of writing and I am no different. Cakes are what I do...or at least that is the part I write about. But, I don't plan, sketch, bake, decorate or anything else in a vacuum void of any other life. Sprinkling in just a bit of humor from my week or an abbreviated story about my kids or husband makes my blog readable and believable...without revealing that my real life is often overwhelming, chaotic and very loud. And plus, still pictures look so serene!

What I am about to write is going to crack the facade of my cake world open and expose a bit of who we really are. I feel like it is important for my readers to understand that my work is not all there is to my life...and the life of our family is about to take a very big change.

So, you ask, what is more important than using your creative energy to design elaborate cakes?

Well, my highest priority is to honor God with my actions, words, thoughts...and my whole life. Breaking that down a bit, my values lay in my husband, in my kids, in serving others, and in walking down the path that God has put in front of us. On a day to day basis that means feeding and clothing my family and ensuring that the children haven't killed each other (not literally, of course!) by the time their Daddy gets home from work.

I know, I still haven't gotten to the life change, yet. Soooo...God has always challenged my husband and I to care for those who cannot care for themselves. And adoption has always been an idea that we have been discussing. After four wonderful biological children we kind of forgot about that tug on our hearts. Two years ago, this fall, God touched both of us in the same week, urging us that now was the time to get moving.

Little did we know, four weeks earlier a little boy was born in China...a little boy who's mother couldn't take care of him. She cared enough about him to entrust his precious life into the hands of another family. She swaddled him, pinned a little red note to his blanket stating his birthday, just two days before, and brought him to a safe place. There this little boy has waited until God arranged to bring us together.

Last month we received our PA (or pre-approval) from China which means everything is a go. And now we just wait! Lord willing, by April of next year our little boy, who we will give the American name Joshua, will officially be part of our family. Yay!!

So between now and then there is so much to do. Piles of paperwork and filing forms, planning and packing and cakes?? Um, not my highest priority right now. Well, I should rephrase that...taking orders is not a high priority right now. 

Our family is preparing (and bracing) for the amazing work that God is beginning in us. Our kids have been so mature, well, to the degree and they can selfless and compassionate. It will not be easy for any of us or our new son. So much loss and pain...I cannot begin to imagine. I am scared and overjoyed at the same time.

But, we don't have time to dwell on that. I have cakes to make, right? No, actually, we can go on only because we have complete peace and assurance that the King of the Universe is calling and leading us and will not forsake us, even to the end of the age. He never said life would be without hurt or trials. We already know that. In fact He insisted that we daily take up our cross to follow him...and that doesn't sound like a cushy life to me. That sounds endless, tiring, selfless, devoted. And why? Not for our own gain or gratification. Not for appreciation or recognition from men. And not so we can earn favor from a most holy God. But, we do this for His glory, that the world would see our actions and glorify the name of God.

There is more to life than being comfortable and profitable. And more to life than cakes.


His call.

Our obedience.

Want to help?

Check out our adoption agency's website to learn more about how you can support adoption.

Our kids got this great idea that they wanted to sell their artwork to help raise funds for bringing our son home from China next March. I found them in the garage affixing a sign to a cooler that read, "Artwork- $3.00 to $5.00". A stack of pictures in hand, they begged me to let them set up shop at the end of the driveway. After much dialogue we compromised on turnig the artwork into cards and advertising to a little bit larger audience. If you would like to donate for this cause email me a The artwork on the cards is drawn by the girls of the family...Kate, Annie and myself, with a blank inside. Cards will come in packs of three, including white envelopes. Suggested donation is $5.00.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Baby Owl Birthday

I thought this sweet baby cake would be a great example to show the process I go through with my clients in designing their cakes. It really isn't anything earth-shattering but the design aspect of cake making is really one of my favorite, I'll share this one with you.

My client emailed me a picture (this is just a detail) of her baby's special quilt, delicately embroidered and appliqued. I loved it from the start! Exactly my style with the vibrant colors, the little curls of the branches, and all the itty bitty animals everywhere. Acorns, a bird's nest, butterflies, ladybugs...all quilted and sweet!

After I gather information on style and size, I sketch out two or three cake designs. Although, I felt like I could have taken this one about 10 completely different directions. I guarded my already divided time and settled on two ideas to present to my client.

Option 1: The hand-painted tree background goes all the way up the cake. This one mostly resembles the quilt. It is delicate with lots of little details. It also looks more like a picture, with the green grass at the bottom and the full tree. All of the leaves, acorns and most animals are then 2-dimensional "quilted" appliques on the tree. The exceptions would be the yellow bird topper, the coral squirrel on the middle level and a few butterflies and dragonflies.

Option 2: This cake is less delicate and more stylized. The tree is only on the bottom tier and is made out of thin swirls of gumpaste, slightly three dimensional, instead of being painted. The larger grey areas have stitching along the edges to duplicate that "quilt" feel. Some small branches and a "1" are wrapped around the second tier. All the elements are flat on the cake except the owl and mushrooms on top and the acorns on the bottom. Another option is to have other small creatures interspersed among the acorns to break up the brown and create interest.

And my client chose...(da, da, da, daaa) Option 2! I think it turned out pretty cute. I ended up placing the little animals around in the acorns. I like how it brightened the browns and tied in the colors from the rest of the cake.

You can see the stitching on the branches and the leaves. I actually did stitching on the animals too. For the acorns I decided on a puffy patterned top with stitching all around, maybe giving the allusion that they are plush, quilted acorns. Why anyone would want plush quilted acorns, I don't know, but it seemed to fit the theme! And I actually really like the effect.

I purposely made the acorns all different sizes so it would look very organic and handmade.

The owl was so adorable! I pressed feather patterns into the wings and belly and added stitching down the "seams". The mushrooms added the perfect touch of whimsy to the baby cake.

Well, that's all, folks! I hope you enjoyed seeing the step by step pictures of this cake design. Maybe I'll have to showcase some gumpaste modeling tutorial pictures sometime. I get so caught up in just getting my cakes finished that I very rarely stop to take pictures. We'll see...

And Happy Birthday, sweet boy!

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